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A decade ago, when Rebecca Constantino was doing research for her PhD in education, she saw a recurring theme: Poor children lack reading skills because they have far less access to books.
"It's not rocket science," she says. "You learn to read by reading, but you need something to read." So she collected used books from affluent schools, loaded them in the trunk of her car, and delivered them to underserved schools and libraries in Los Angeles. Soon educators began requesting more books, and Constantino started raising money for the cause.
A few months later she established Access Books, a nonprofit that has donated 1.3 million books to more than 150 schools and community centers and refurbished several neighborhood libraries along the way.
"We serve kids who have never been to the ocean or a museum, so if they can visit one through a book and see possibilities, I am happy," Constantino says. "I want kids to know that if they can read, they can do anything."
How to Help: See accessbooks.net for drop-off locations in Southern California. You can also mail in books, or donate money or 15 percent of a purchase at amazon.com.
Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal, August 2009.